Though South Florida’s housing market is rebounding, it now faces a new threat from an old law, according to Broward Property Appraiser Lori Parrish.
Long before the Sunshine State was known for its foreclosed and for rent homes, 19th-century Floridians used "adverse possession" to expand.
"Say you were a farmer and you were farming your property and nobody was paying taxes or taking care of the property next door, you could go pay the taxes and start farming it, and maybe build a shed or barn or something," Parrish explained.
Then, with seven or so years of work, upkeep, and tax payments, farmers could earn the property.
But, today, Parrish has found a growing number of people abusing the law in Broward.
"The law doesn't require the person who filed one to prove to us with driver's license, voter's registration, utility bills, like a homestead, that they live there," Parrish said.
Between the end of 2012 and early 2013, the county recorded as many as 48 adverse possession homes.
Last month, 23-year-old Andre Barbosa put adverse possession on the map, when he made headlines using it to squat inside a $2.5 million Palm Beach County mansion. Bank of America owns the home, and served Barbosa with eviction papers, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported. But, legally, he can only be arrested outside the home.
Stories like that are proof, said Parrish, that adverse possession has outgrown its original purpose. A bill is already in the works to overturn the law.
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